The Corner

Education

Will Congress Pass a Higher-Ed Reform Bill?

One of the big mistakes of LBJ’s presidency was the passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The feds have no constitutional business in education (higher or otherwise) and this law let the regulatory camel get its nose under the tent. The result has been ever-expanding government meddling that has made college education far more expensive and far less valuable.

Congress has been working on a bill that would un-do some of the damage. In today’s Martin Center article, Jenna Robinson looks at several of its provisions. She writes, “Three important reforms stand out: repealing outdated and unnecessary federal regulation, simplifying the student loan system, and encouraging innovation.”

For example, the bill gets rid of a regulation that blocks colleges from making curricular innovations. It also reduces federal mandates that significantly increase the cost of college by compelling the employment of many pointless administrators.

Another group of changes in the bill streamline and simplify the process of applying for federal aid. It’s too bad we can’t get rid of federal aid entirely, but as long as we have it, there’s no need for it to be so daunting.

And a third group of reforms would make the accreditation system less of a barrier to new entry and innovation. Robinson explains,

The Act would change that protectionism by allowing any entity to apply to be an accreditor if it has a voluntary membership and accrediting institutions is its principal purpose. This change would free universities and programs from the stranglehold of change-resistant regional accreditors.

This bill has been in the works for a long time and Democrats are digging in their heels to defend what they perceive as one of their clients — the higher-education establishment. Let’s hope the GOP leadership has the backbone to bring the bill to a vote.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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